Obstruction Call Ends Wild, Bizarre World Series Game

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USP-MLB_-World-Series-Boston-Red-Sox-at-St.-Louis_001-1024x689It was a night that ended in the ninth-inning with a bizarre call that resulted in one of the wildest finishes imaginable. It was a classic October game that featured just about everything, and certainly it was the craziest ending, something we’ve never quite seen before. Years from now we will be debating an unforgettable finish to Game 3 of the World Series. Years from now we will be talking about an obstruction call that won the Cardinals a World Series game.

A wild and crazy night ended with a runner tripping over a fielder’s leg and scoring the winning run on the ensuring call. If there’s ever been a night that the Red Sox felt cursed, it was on this particular night because of the rare ruling at the end, producing the madness on what appeared to be indisputably the correct call. It’s something you don’t see very often, but it was the right call, you might say. While that may have taken away the fun, people are going to raise controversy.

There’s an unprecedented scenario in this series as we have witnessed an unusual, maybe historic, scene that people will debate forevermore. It was a heartbreaker for the Red Sox as the Cardinals won it based on technicality. This is not a night to blame Major League Baseball or the umpiring crew for making the right call, for once, when officials usually lack accountability, stemming largely from the pervasive bias in umpires’ calls. It’s one of those rules in the book the umpires have to get correct, especially in the most dramatic of circumstances. It’s about getting the call right, as one bad call can jeopardize a team’s chances of coming away with a championship.

There’s no tripping in baseball, or a team will be penalized, as it turns out. That was obvious Saturday night after Boston’s disheartening 5-4 loss to St. Louis, when no one knew what had happened and when the Red Sox were used by example for not making an effort to read Section 2.00 of the Official Rules of Major League Baseball. It was a night that involved the umpires who have been in the center of controversies for debacles that too often caused a fuss largely from the countless instances of badly blown calls.

This is one of those rare moments in sports, and you can watch baseball for the next couple of decades and never see another game end like this one. The folks all over who watched the game on this night stared mesmerized, and while it’s uncommon to witness two teams that have been so evenly matched in the postseason, avid and supportive fans were amazed by what had materialized.

mlb_g_daled_cr_300x300With the game tied 4-4, Dustin Pedroia dove to stop a grounder hit by Jon Jay and made a perfect throw home to nail Yadier Molina for the second out. Jarrod Saltalamacchia fired to third base in effort to throw out Allen Craig and the ball caromed off the glove of third baseman, Will Middlebrooks. As the ball traveled to foul territory in left, with runners on the base, Craig got up on his feet and tried to run home.

But Middlebrooks, lying on his stomach, raised his legs as part of an attempt to trip Craig, who scampered across the plate. After Daniel Nava quickly retrieved the ball he fired home to seemingly throw out Craig, but the umpires ruled an obstruction on Middlebrooks — and rightfully so — it was well done by third-base umpire Jim Joyce. Craig re-injured his sprained left foot as he slid into home plate. He limped on the way to the plate, stumbled home and was lying while face down in the dirt as the Cardinals celebrated and the Red Sox argued. Only the umpires knew exactly what to call, but Middlebrooks and the rest of his Red Sox teammates precisely disagreed with it.

He tried to get away with it, but the umpires were attentive to detail, which he was caught tripping up Craig and preventing him from scoring. It shouldn’t be easy to pull one over on the umpires, because if there are people who actually know the rulebook with their eyes close, it is the six officials working the game. It’s strange home plate umpire Dana DeMuth, whose missed call was overturned, discovered that he blew the call, unaware of the signals from his crew.

Here’s the definition of obstruction:

“Obstruction is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.” Which is followed by a comment about obstruction: “After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the act of fielding the ball. For example, an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.”

Whether Middlebrooks was intentionally trying to trip Craig or not, hoping the umps wouldn’t see it, playing by the rules could be helpful in the heat of the moment. It’s what you do. For the record, he was charged with the first game-ending interference error in postseason history. Having seen a number of World Series games over the years, it was the first time I’ve ever seen a player score the winning run on an error. That’s because I was 1 years old at the time when Ray Knight ran home to win the Bill Buckner game in 1986.

mlb_g_umps_cr_300x200It was one of the most critical umpiring calls in postseason history and has shockingly put the Red Sox in a deep hole in a truly hostile environment. And now, well, the Cardinals lead 2-1, two victories away from capturing their third World Series title in seven years.

What was an awesome beginning feels like the craziest ending in sports. The Red Sox have strung together a couple of late-inning comebacks from two-run deficits. It appears to be a memorable series to those who are watching closely that 20 years from now those same viewers will be talking about Matt Holliday’s two dramatic tie-breaking hits and Xander Bogaerts’ game-tying single off Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal. This fall evokes memories of baseball theatrics, but it was a strange ending to Game 3, and fans were stunned over the fact that an obstruction was called to conclude what had been a night of craziness.

It was one of the most historic walk-off hits in the World Series. It won’t be hard to remember a night like this one in baseball history when it was an unusual walk-off hit you may never ever see again, and probably won’t ever see again.

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